“Staying Alert.” Coronavirus, Autism, and cPTSD2 min read

Boris Johnson’s record on managing the Coronavirus crisis in the UK has not been characterised by coherence or clarity, and tonight’s announcement is sadly in a similar vein.

The Stay Home slogan has been replaced with Stay Alert, which is hugely confusing and ambiguous, to say the least. Apparently there will be more detail tomorrow as to what this means in practice, but I am not encouraged and won’t be holding my breath–which incidentally becomes rather more difficult as I currently have Covid19 symptoms myself and am self-isolating.

For me, as an autistic adult with, amongst other mental health delights, cPTSD, the phrase Stay Alert is incredibly loaded and problematic. To stay alert for the majority of the population means to be more vigilant, to put extra energy into noticing their surroundings, and be extra aware of danger.

How on earth anyone can be expected to be extra aware of the invisible danger that Covid19 presents is beyond me, but maybe Boris will explain this tomorrow. Or not. One thing that is certain, however, is the increase in uncertainty and anxiety this ambiguous mandate will engender for a lot of people.

Imagine then, what the phrase Stay Alert means for an autistic person who has the experience of living with cPTSD. I am constantly alert under all circumstances, and as a result have a permanent state of heightened anxiety that requires medication so that I can present an appearance of functionality.

The experience of growing up without support, being bullied, rejected, and abused– as well as not being diagnosed until 42– has resulted in a series of traumas building up over the years. This history, combined with the day-to-day trauma of trying to navigate an often-hostile world that is, at best, reluctant to accommodate us and at worst, openly hostile to our differences, produces a toxic cocktail of hyper-vigilance, super-alertness, and exhaustion.

So, Mr Johnson, to tell us Brits to Stay Alert fills me with a mix of cynicism and terror. You are not famed for your use of appropriate language or of possessing any sense of humanity or empathy, so I cannot in all seriousness expect you to understand the nuances of this badly thought out sound bite.

You don’t have a track record of any real care for the vulnerable people that you churn out Draconian policies for, so why should I expect anything else?

So thanks for this, Boris. I will be staying alert, not because I am following your non-sensical advice, but because it is what I always do. Society’s response to my autism and my cPTSD doesn’t give me any choice in the matter.

Slow clap for you this Thursday, methinks.

5 Comments

  1. Well, over here, the guy posing as our “leader” tried out the slogan “drink bleach,” which caused a flurry of others to reply, “No. Really, don’t.” We sort of have to discern whose authority to find comfort and assurance in, these days, and unfortunately, we’re forced to disregard much if not all that our elected officials tell us. I hope you find a catch phrase that works for you. For me, I’m still staying home.

    1. Well, at least you might be able to metaphorically borrow my state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, who, while not perfect as a leader overall, is a good crisis leader. If you don’t live in New York as I do, you could watch his briefings anyway — and he does have some presence on the national stage, far as I can tell.

        1. Yes I am really impressed with Cuomo.

  2. The same bleach that is sold as MMS to ‘cure’ autism! We live in surreal and scary times. Yes, staying in here too. Keep well friend.

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